Chris Fraser, Martha Mysko, and Willie Wayne Smith. Courtesy of the Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Cranbrook Academy of Art Announces New Leadership for Painting and Photography Departments

The Cranbrook Academy of Art and Art Museum in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, has appointed new heads of its painting and photography departments. Artists-in-residence Martha Mysko and Willie Wayne Smith will lead the painting department. They replaced Beverly Fishman, who served as the painting artist-in-residence at the academy for twenty-seven years.

Mysko, a 2011 graduate of the academy, uses her practice to explore the expanded field of painting through installation, sculpture, painting, digital media, video, and photography. She creates color-saturated installations that evoke domestic space, consumerist culture, and tropes within art history and pop culture. Smith, a 2010 graduate of the academy, produces work that melds imaginative and personal narratives while questioning the role of the history of painting in contemporary culture. 

“Our current students have been studying with Martha and Willie for a year now and have formed deep connections and responded well to their teaching style,” Susan R. Ewing, director of the academy, said in a statement. “Their work is experimental, yet also resonates from a strong background in classical painting, allowing them to reach a wide variety of students and challenge each of them to expand their practice.”

Artist and educator Chris Fraser, who is known for constructing environments modeled on historical image-making technologies such as the camera obscura, will oversee the photography department. He succeeds Shanna Merola, who has been serving as the interim artist-in-residence since the departure of Danielle Dean in 2019. Fraser comes to Cranbrook from Oakland, California, and previously held faculty appointments at Mills College; California State University, Sacramento; and Sierra College. 

“The Academy community was fully involved in the selection of these artists,” said Ewing. “With all of the uncertainty in the world right now, we are comforted by the fact that our incoming class of students and our returning students will have the support and guidance they need from a dedicated group of faculty who are all leaders in their fields.”